PARENT SCHOOL PARTNERSHIP: Group seeks
expansion of program
Effort teaches Hispanics about school system
by Juliet V. Casey, Las Vegas Review-Journal, September
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Rosa Vargas wasn't sure what to do when her 14-year-old
daughter last year complained of being picked on by a
"I would tell her to ignore the boy, be quiet and not to make
trouble," said Vargas, a native of El Salvador. "I thought,
maybe I should talk to the boy's mother. Then I thought that
might make things worse."
But after meeting with other Hispanic parents as part of the
new Parent School Partnership Program, Vargas learned where to
go for help.
"I realized when there's a problem in the school you can go
directly to the person who has the authority to resolve it,"
she said. Vargas said she spoke to a school counselor in
charge of discipline and soon afterward, her daughter seemed
happier and didn't mention any more problems with the bully.
Vargas said she and about 15 other parents took 16 classes at
Martin Middle School on how public education works. She said
they learned so much, they want the program to continue and
Officials from the Mexican American Legal Defense and
Education Fund, which sponsors the program, say they plan to
expand the effort with help from parents like Vargas. MALDEF
is a national nonprofit Hispanic organization focused on civil
rights litigation, advocacy and educational outreach.
"Children are much more secure and willing to take on the
challenges of education if their parents are there to advocate
for them," said Frank Molina, national Parent School
Partnership trainer. "But if we don't help the parents, who's
going to help the children?"
Molina was in Las Vegas last week exploring ways to get more
people interested in the effort.
"As parents go through the program they begin to understand
how important their role is in their child's education," said
Alex Garza, who taught the course at Martin. "They go to
parent-teacher conferences. They ask questions and they
understand their rights better."
Molina said MALDEF, which has established the program in
several states, uses Census data to determine where the
fastest-growing Hispanics communities are and where the
program is most needed. Nevada, where the Hispanic population
nearly tripled in between 1990 and 2000, was an obvious place
to take the program, he said.
Hispanic students are the fastest-growing minority group in
Clark County schools, and are among those who struggle the
most. More than one-third of the students who drop out of
Clark County high schools are Hispanic. In the 2000-01 school
year, an estimated 25 percent of the district's high school
students were Hispanic.
Clark County School District officials said MALDEF's program
has shown it will help parents and children. They said a large
body of research shows a strong correlation between parent
involvement and student success.
Clara Miranda, a district specialist in multicultural
education, said the program will help invalidate any
perception that Hispanic parents don't care about their
"Many parents want to be part of the system, they just don't
have access," she said. "This is another door we can open for